The Bowling Green State University women's basketball team took an early lead and withstood several runs by the University of Akron en route to an 81-65 win Sunday afternoon (Jan. 12). The Mid-American Conference East Division game was held at the Stroh Center.
With the win, the Falcons improve to 13-2 overall and 3-0 in MAC play. The Zips drop to 7-7 and 1-2, respectively.
The Zips were picked to win the MAC's East Division in the preseason coaches' poll, with the Falcons tabbed for second.
Sunday's win gives the Falcons a 50-3 lead in the all-time series between the teams. BGSU is a perfect 27-0 in home games vs. the Zips, including a 3-0 mark at the Stroh Center.
Senior Jillian Halfhill led the Falcons with 18 points, as BG had five double-figure scorers on the day. Fellow senior Alexis Rogers had 14 points, while a trio of Falcons scored 12 apiece. That group included senior Jill Stein, junior Jasmine Matthews and redshirt sophomore Erica Donovan.
Donovan had a double-double, with a game-high 10 rebounds as BGSU had a slim 40-38 advantage on the boards.
Rachel Tecca led the Zips with 22 points and nine rebounds.
The Falcons hit 10-of-18 shots from three-point range, with Halfhill making four of her six long-distance tries. Both Donovan and Matthews hit a pair of shots from beyond the arc.
Additionally, BGSU went 23-of-27 (85.2%) from the free-throw line. The Falcons went 1-of-3 from the stripe, both at the beginning and at the end of the game. In between, however, BGSU made 21 consecutive free-throw tries.
The game started at a frenetic pace, as there were five possessions in the first minute alone. Neither the Falcons nor the Zips scored, however, until the game's sixth possession, when Donovan found Stein for a three-pointer and an early BG lead.
The Zips came back with the next four points, on jumpers by Hanna Luburgh and Tecca, and the next few minutes featured all four of the game's lead changes. Stein hit a jumper for a 5-4 BG lead, and after another Luburgh bucket, Halfhill dribbled around the arc and knocked down a three-point try for an 8-6 Falcon advantage at the 15:51 mark.
Moments later, Donovan's trey gave the Falcons an 11-6 lead, and after UA's Carly Young answered with a three-pointer, sophomore Miriam Justinger's steal and layup put BG up by four. The Zips then turned the ball over for the eighth time in the game's first seven minutes, and a Rogers jumper put BG on top by a 15-9 score.
Tecca split a pair of free throws, but junior Deborah Hoekstra fed Stein for a jumper, giving the Falcons a 17-10 lead.
Akron used a timeout with 12:23 left in the period. After that break, however, the Falcons forced a miss by Tecca, and on the ensuing possession, Halfhill fired the ball ahead to Hoekstra for a three-pointer and a 10-point advantage. The Zips used their second timeout in a 15-second span.
UA battled back to within seven, as an Anita Brown putback made the score 22-15 with 8:53 left in the half. But, Donovan scored on a putback of her own, and the redshirt sophomore then split a pair of free throws to restore the 10-point lead. After another Akron miss, Rogers scored inside for a 27-15 advantage with under seven minutes left in the period.
Again, the Zips rallied, as BG began to experience some foul trouble. Stein was whistled for her third foul of the game with 6:20 left in the period, and both Rogers and Donovan picked up their second foul within the next minute. UA crept back within seven points on a Kacie Cassell bucket with four and a half minutes left before intermission.
Halfhill responded with a three-pointer, but Tecca answered with a long-range shot at the other end. Then, Luburgh's back-door layup brought the Zips to within five points of the Brown and Orange, 32-27.
The teams traded buckets, with Matthews scoring in the paint after a nifty shot fake, but Tecca answering. Then, in the final minute of the period, Matthews got to the line and sank a pair of charity tosses, and after a missed layup by the Zips, Justinger found Halfhill for a three-ball and a 39-29 lead with 18 seconds left in the half.
Halfhill had the hot hand as the second half began as well, knocking down another long-range shot for the first three points of the half. Tecca hit a layup, but Stein ran the floor, took a Rogers outlet pass and scored in transition for a 44-31 BG lead.
Then, Rogers got an offensive rebound and a layup, and the Falcons' advantage was 15 points as the Zips used a timeout at the 17:18 mark.
Stein, however, was called for her fourth foul less than a minute later, and Rogers picked up her third at the 16:05 mark. Cassell converted a three-point play, and Tecca's layup cut BG's lead to eight points, 46-39, with 15:10 to go.
With the lead still at eight, Halfhill found Donovan for a left-win triple and a 51-40 lead. After a Cassell jumper, a Halfhill layup was followed by a long two-pointer from Hoekstra, and BG had a 55-42 lead midway through the period.
The lead fluctuated between 11 and 13 points over the next few minutes, before Hoekstra found Matthews for a right-elbow three-pointer and a 62-48 lead with 7:16 remaining. Luburgh hit a jumper, but Rogers responded with a layup. The teams again traded successful scoring possessions until Matthews hit another key three.
This time, Donovan provided the assist, driving across the middle and finding Matthews in the right corner. From in front of the BG bench, Matthews rose and hit a triple that gave the Brown and Orange a 15-point lead, 69-54, with 4:57 to go. The BG lead would not drop below 14 points the rest of the way.
Two Matthews free throws made it a 17-point game, and a pair of tosses from Halfhill gave BG a game-high 18-point advantage with 4:05 left. The Falcons' final 12 points of the day would come at the charity stripe.
Tecca had 11 points in each half for the Zips, while Rogers had 10 points and six rebounds in the second period. For the game, Rogers had eight boards -- including four at the offensive end -- to go along with her 14 points.
Halfhill had four assists to lead the Falcons, while Hoekstra scored seven points and dished out three assists in the win.
BGSU hits the road for a pair of tough cross-divisional matchups next week. The Falcons play at Ball State on Wednesday night (Jan. 15), before facing preseason MAC favorite Central Michigan on Saturday afternoon (Jan. 18). Both games are part of the MAC's television schedule, and are slated to be televised by Time Warner Cable SportsChannel as well as ESPN3